For Marcia Hernandez, the greatest joy in teaching does not come from passing on her knowledge to her students – it comes from learning from the children each day. Throughout her time at Serafín José García, a school in the small Uruguayan town of Vergara, Marcia has formed strong bonds with her students, largely thanks to her teaching methods, rooted in love and joy. When the COVID pandemic forced schools to shut, Marcia had to find another way to build links with pupils. That was when she came up with the idea for Radio Alegría, an online radio platform through which she delivered lessons. Children were able to listen to Marcia through their computers or smartphones, and provide feedback through CREA, the national education platform, and WhatsApp. Little by little, families started taking part in the radio lessons, and children had the opportunity to create their own radio content.
Through Radio Alegría, Marcia’s students mastered several technological tools, as well as a new way of learning. The shyest students, who rarely raised their hand in class, were able to participate more by sending in written questions or answers. 90% of Marcia’s students attended the radio classes every day, and when the school reopened, the children were noticeably more engaged in their education. With schools once again closed, Radio Alegría is proving to be an invaluable learning tool. Teachers from across the school now conduct lessons on the radio, which is particularly beneficial for students who do not have access to a computer and cannot attend classes using videoconferencing platforms. Even students who do have access to a computer now say they prefer learning through the radio.
In September 2020, Marcia won the ReachingU Foundation’s Teacher of the Year award. As a result, her school received $5,000 worth of radio equipment to expand the reach of Radio Alegría.
Having witnessed the incredible impact of Radio Alegría on her students and wider community, Marcia would use the Global Teacher Prize to provide schools across Uruguay with the necessary equipment to set up their own radio platforms. She would then set up a network for schools to exchange knowledge and content, thus improving the quality of Uruguayan education. Marcia understands that the role of teachers is to shape the citizens of tomorrow, and give them the tools to navigate our changing world. Using audible formats will help children strengthen their listening skills, which are increasingly important.